Is it time to let go of things we hold on to? What does holding on to pain give us? How can we let it go?
I often come across clients who say they want to let go of the past and yet they are not willing to let go. On delving deeper the reason they hold on to it is because they believe it gives them memories, learnings, security and protection. So what does reminding ourselves of the pain really give us? Have you noticed when we are in an argument and we feel we are at the losing end we rake up the past. Now is that really fair play? It might make us feel self-righteous or the victim but does it really help us move forward?
I was working with a client on letting go of the past, as it did not serve her. She wanted to dissociate from it and stop re-living it, yet she was at some level conflicted. She thought revisiting it gave her memories; it made it real and reminded her it did happen. So I asked her a question; "If you cut yourself and it healed, would you need to go and open the wound to make it real?" She argued that we cannot just blank out our memories. Well I'm certainly not asking you to blank them out... I'm asking you to process them and let it go. I'm asking you to look at the experience from the outside, as if you are watching a stage play of yourself and store your learnings from it. What we tend to do is re-live the experience as if it is happening to us now, which it clearly isn't.
We often say, "how could they do this to me, xyz knows me, xyz knows what I want?" From my personal experience I realize that no matter how well you think you know someone, you never know what they are thinking or what they want. My husband would often say to me, "just tell me what you want, I'm not a mind reader" and I would think he's being rude. I now totally agree with that, it's better to ask than assume.
We never know what someone is thinking. All we know is that a person's behavior has to do with how they are feeling. It might have nothing to do with us, its about them. It's about their capabilities of dealing with what's going on in their lives. Every action has a positive intention for the person doing it and not necessarily for the person at the receiving end. When someone says awful things about us, what could their positive intention be? Could it be to feel like they are better than us, or validate them? To loosely quote Robin Sharma - People react out of two emotions, love or fear. The say or do things because they love you or fear losing you, or losing face or simply not being enough.
A client was having problems in her marriage. She has been married nearly 20 years. She insisted that her husband had changed over the years. As we worked more on her relationship, she remembered being hurt by him even on her wedding day. She was running 30 minutes late for the marriage ceremony and he rang her and shouted at her for being late. She was very hurt about being yelled at on her wedding day, which was meant to be the happiest day in her life. As we spoke more about her husband’s personality she revealed he takes time personally and is always on time. I then said to her, “He was waiting with hundreds of guests for 30 minutes and his bride to be was not there. So what could have been his positive intention for shouting at you? Could it be respecting other people's time? Or was it to hurt her and ruin her wedding day?” I wrote about superficial truth and deep truth a while back. According to Neil Bohr, superficial truth is when we believe we are right and the other person is wrong. Deep truth is acknowledging that we are right and the other person is right too. Could we for a moment step into the other person’s shoes and see what makes them think they are right? She finally let go of that story.
Sometimes, letting go means forgiving ourselves as well. Treating ourselves with kindness and compassion. Accepting that we did the best with the resources we had available to us. Acknowledging that we are older and more mature now and have better understanding of situations. Learning from our mistakes instead of living them.
We often think that holding on makes us strong but it's letting go that makes us stronger. We need to let go for ourselves. Resentment keeps us stuck, letting go sets us free. We can't reach in front of us until we let go of what's behind us.